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Jun 29, 2012 07:46 AM

Competitive cooking shows- over use of certain dishes or terms?!

It's summer, I have a backlog of dvr shows, and thus I'm sort-of experiencing an "immersion" in FN and other cooking programming. As I'm watching shows back to back to back-say Chopped-that were filmed over years' spans, trends are emerging.
The Anne Burrell-hosted chef search last night reinforced some things.
There are a short list of preparations that chefs, when put under time pressure, seem to default to because -they -think -these -dishes -are -creative, -modern, -or -trendy. My daughter is considering a fine food occupation and we are compiling a list of dishes or terms that make us "sad" when we see a chef proudly announce how/what s/he has made:

A salad for the appetizer round, especially Caesar
Chocolate ganache

I know there's at least one protein treatment we see all the time, but it has escaped me at the moment.

So—what dishes or preps do you guys think are over-used ON TV because the chefs think they're being creative or trendy OR because it's a time-default dish?

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  1. At least on the Burrell show last night, it's not surprising that 2 of the competitors made ceviche. It was a Mexican restaurant with 3 on its menu

    In light of a recent thread on CH, I found it interesting that the judge (apparently a well respected figure on the American-Mexican restaurant scene) thought the shrimp should have been lightly poached before marinating (esp. considering the time constraint).

    As for mole - if you are required to use chocolate in a savory application, a mole-like sauce is the first thing that comes to mind. That despite the fact that not all moles include chocolate, and most competition 'moles' are no where as time intensive or complex as an Oaxacan one.

    I don't see the problem with salad as appetizer. While restaurant menus do (usually) have separate salad and appetizer categories, they both serve, in the American style, as pre-entree dishes, and in the Chopped competition, salad is accepted by the judges.

    A brittle is one way of providing a crunchy component, something which the judges appreciate. In all the dishes, including the dessert, you are likely to get docked if textures are uniform.

    The ganache is one form of sauce for the dessert. Again, judges expect some sort of sauce.

    Others have complained about over use of french toast and bread pudding in the desserts. I think time is a big issue with these. Cakes and other baked items can be tricky in that time frame.

    If we see repetitions on Chopped judges are partly to be blamed. A lightly sweetened Asian style dessert is not going to get points from Amanda, who expects her dessert to be sweet. The entree portion has to be large enough, the appetizer portion small enough.

    I expect more creativity from Iron Chef America, or Sweet Genius, than from Chopped.

    2 Replies
    1. re: paulj

      PaulJ- as a side note, I'm almost always happy to see your responses, as they are usually thorough and often controversial [resulting in more comments and deeper thought, which is great].

      A few clarifications:

      I don't just mean Chopped, but also the other "chefs need to 'wow'" shows. That's why I dislike salads. Where's the punch?

      Ceviche -- on the Find-A-Chef with Burrell, they all nodded sagely when someone said a ceviche requires 2+ hours for proper cooking, yet talented chefs still tried to do it, and we see it all the time in the 20min app segment on Chopped.

      "Chocolate ganache" was a term quibble as I am under the impression that unless you state it otherwise, ganache IS chocolate.

      Brittle-- again, this is more of an attitude complaint. You can see the competitors falling into 2 camps. "Don't know what to do" = bread pudding/french toast. "Need texture"= brittle

      Other terms I've remembered.:
      *crostini. It's not fancy cooking, it's Italian for TOAST.
      *aioli: it's mayonnaise with garlic. if you make a sauce and call it "rosemary aioli" I'm looking for the garlic [of course, people Do say "garlic aioli" too]

      Finally [I want to stick in a "I said it here first"]
      I'd like FN to do a TABOO show [concept like the board game] much like Chopped, but with something like a grocery store Caesar salad kit and a bag of greenery and it CAN'T become Caesar salad.

      1. re: Kris in Beijing

        Both Chopped and Sweet Genius give points for transforming ingredients. Simply using them (e.g. potato chips as chips on the side) in the usual way fails to impress. As the Chopped series has gone on, the judges are more pressure on the competitors to be creative. I hear that especially after the appetizer round - 'so and so what chopped because he left off an ingredient, but the rest you need step up your game in such-n-such a way...'

        But I pay more attention when the ingredients are exotic or tricky - e.g. chicken feet, pig intestines, or things that I like to use (or might like to try). If the emphasis was on transforming ordinary things like a salad kit, I would switch to see what was on CreateTV or the arts channel.

    2. In a context like Chopped, I don't expect contestants to be precise in their terminology. They've had 20-30 minutes to make something. How much time are they given to come up with the description? And the description has to tread a balance between details and brevity. That's where use of a term like 'barley risotto' comes it, implying a risotto (with rice) like consistency, but a different grain. Sometimes the descriptions on ICA are too long-winded. Like a 3 part presentation, with each part requiring a paragraph.